• Otávio Santiago

Pathogenic Diseases Are Exacerbated by Climate Change, Scientists Warn

There are more than a thousand different ways that climate change can cause outbreaks of infectious disease in humans, according to a new review. When analyzing the literature on 375 human pathogens, researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US found 58 percent of these diseases were, at some point in recorded history, aggravated by climate hazards.

That's 277 known diseases we need to watch for future outbreaks, and when you consider all the ways in which those pathogens can spread with climate change, the possibilities are overwhelming.

There are simply too many infections and too many modes of transmission for society to adapt to each of these threats at once. Instead, the researchers say, our best bet is to fight climate change at its source by significantly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Human-driven climate change is already increasing the severity and frequency of climate hazards like heatwaves, wildfires, and flooding in many areas around the globe, often bringing a variety of organisms into closer contact with humans.

To gain a better sense of the size of the problem, the researchers combed Google Scholar for thousands of articles on climate change and infectious diseases known to impact human society, like Zika, malaria, dengue, influenza, and Ebola (to name just a few). The team found 3,213 empirical examples in human history in which climate hazards were implicated in outbreaks of infectious disease.

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